Advise Hillary

“Hillary, here’s the deal.” You’re sitting down with Sen. Clinton – what would you advise her to say about her 2002 vote authorizing Bush to go to war?

She’s in crisis – in New Hampshire voters asked her this weekend to say straight up that her vote authorizing the Iraq war was a mistake, as John Edwards has said about his yes vote. Journalists, bloggers and talk–show yappers are hammering her for dancing around the issue, some comparing her response to John Kerry’s “I voted for it before I voted against it.”

Clinton is saying “If I knew then what we know now, I would not have voted yes,” and that it’s the president who’s screwed this up. Mark Penn,
Clinton’s chief strategist, says “It’s important for all Democrats to keep the word ‘mistake’ firmly on the Republicans and on President Bush.”

Seems like people can sniff a strategy a mile off, like a hog-confinement barn. They want honest straight talk. So is Clinton being a straight shooter, saying exactly what she believes, that her vote wasn’t a mistake because the info at the time was bad? Should she stick to it and to hell with the critics? Or is she focus-grouping every syllable and proving her reputation as calculating and passionless?

Most important, what should she do and say right now, today? Throw in your two cents’ worth – what’s your advice to Senator Clinton?

Here’s today’s New York Times story about how Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are talking about the war.

15 thoughts on “Advise Hillary

  1. Bill Brady says:

    The reason Hillary doesn’t ring true with her “If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have voted for the war” line is because no one believes she based her vote on intelligence information, but rather on a calculation that she needed to vote for it or risk getting pounded by the right wing pundits for being soft on terrorism. In other words, people don’t believe her vote was based on what she “knew,” but rather what she thought was politically expedient. If she believed the “evidence” that was being presented by the Administration despite all the doubt being expressed at the time from so many different quarters of her party, isn’t she essentially admitting that others in her party showed better judgement than she did?

    Obviously I’m not offering Hillary any advice here, I’m just pontificating. But that’s all I have time for right now. Curse you guys for creating a really cool new blog that I’m bound to spend too much time reading. Nice clean design too. Good luck with it.

    Having said

  2. Malaprop says:

    If this were great theater instead of lousy politics, wouldn’t Hillary be calling for impeachment? I’d buy a top price ticket to that show.

  3. Becky Lentz says:

    Bruce said I had to post this. 😛

    About Hillary: Maybe for shooting herself in the foot she’d like to trade in that revolver for a shotgun. Requires reloading less often.

    And btw…wasn’t her “If-I-knew-then-what-I-know-now” excuse the same one she used regarding Monicagate. I’m just saying

  4. People are clamoring for a leader who truly understands what leadership is all about. Leadership means taking responsibility for one’s own actions. Leadership means not passing the buck and blaming others. Leadership means coming up with solutions and rallying people around a vision to achieve a common goal. True leaders point out how they differ from others without getting personal e.g. “I don’t agree with my opponent’s ideas, here’s why, and here’s why I’m different.”

    Unfortunately the so called leaders of today are playing the same divisive politics that has gotten the world into so many problems (circa Germany in 1936). Today’s leaders get their political capital by telling the world how everyone else has messed up; how others are the cause of all of your problems. Instead of providing sound solutions, communicating ideas, and holding them up for debate, it’s easier to just “blame the other guy.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t get the headlines. Never has, and in today’s 30 second CNN sound bite, probably never will.

    Saying that, if I was counseling Hillary, I would have her say something like: “Yes…I voted for the war in Iraq based on the information I had at the time. The majority of us did, including the president. The issue to me is not the vote that got us into the war, it’s the strategy and tactics to get us out of the war that are important. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if we ever had a sound strategy from the beginning and that’s inexcusable. I don’t agree with the president’s current ideas, but I can tell you what mine are….”

    Of course this is advice would be predicated on Hillary actually having a strategy and a plan. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard a strategy from any of our so-called leaders on either side of the aisle. And now I’m not being much of a leader either as I don’t have one to communicate.

  5. Kelly Groehler says:

    The only advice I can offer, in good conscience, is for her to rethink her candidacy. As much as I want to see a woman president in my lifetime, I dread the next 22 months with Hillary as our first contender, her reputation sullying the efforts of other women who aspire to the post.

    By the way – splendid blog!

  6. Dave Kuhn says:

    If you want people to believe you, always start by conceding the obvious. (For example, I will readily admit I am a curmudgeon and a geezer. So there.)

    That common-sense rule is repeatedly violated by politicians and their handlers, obsessed as they are with “staying on message.” What crap.

    Is that curmudgeonly enough?

  7. Jon Austin says:

    I feel about Hillary’s first major test the same way I felt about seeing Episode I of the Star Wars series (for you non-Star Warsians, that’s the fourth movie George Lucas made, 20 years after the first three).

    “That’s it?”

    That’s the best she can do with unlimited resources, access to the best advisors, the most insightful polling, the years of practicing her craft? The best she can do is a middle of the road waffle that satisfies no one?

    See? Just like Episode I (especially the pod race scene).

  8. Eileen says:

    Today, I know the vote was wrong. In 2002, with the information I had, I felt it was the right vote. It turns out only Senator Wellstone was right.

  9. Eileen, way to go, short and sweet, high and tight.
    The advice I’m seeing here for free beats the hell out of what she’s paying way too much for.

  10. tcarideo says:

    First, she needs a new hairdo. Bill had a nice hairdo. She needs one, too. Not a mohawk, though. Extensions might be nice. Something in purple.

    Second, I don’t think she CAN say her vote was a mistake. For a Democrat to run successfully at this time and place, she has to appear more hawkish than her party. What she can say is that she voted for the war, but assumed that the current administration would do a better job at running it. Having said that, however, she will be accused of not knowing any better given the fact that Rummy was in charge — the guy who messed up Vietnam. Now, if Powell had been Secretary of Defense, her explanation would be more defensible.

  11. walt says:

    David Brooks weighed in sympathetically today on this, and I think persuasively. He sees her as having been trying to avoid tying the president’s hands so he could theoretically use force if all else failed, a la Bosnia. Alas, it’s way too complicated for her to recount in a town hall forum or tight soundbite and be believed. She was respecting the power of and hoping for wisdom in the Oval Office. All else didn’t fail because all else wasn’t tried but she couldn’t have known that in advance.


    February 15, 2007
    Op-Ed Columnist
    No Apology Needed
    Far be it from me to get in the middle of a liberal purge, but would anybody mind if I pointed out that the calls for Hillary Clinton to apologize for her support of the Iraq war are almost entirely bogus?

    I mean, have the people calling for her apology actually read the speeches she delivered before the war? Have they read her remarks during the war resolution debate, when she specifically rejected a pre-emptive, unilateral attack on Saddam? Did they read the passages in which she called for a longer U.N. inspections regime and declared, “I believe international support and legitimacy are crucial”?

    If they went back and read what Senator Clinton was saying before the war, they’d be surprised, as I was, by her approach. And they’d learn something, as I did, about what kind of president she would make.

    The Iraq war debate began in earnest in September 2002. At that point Clinton was saying in public what Colin Powell was saying in private: emphasizing the need to work through the U.N. and build a broad coalition to enforce inspections.

    She delivered her Senate resolution speech on Oct. 10. It was Clintonian in character. On the one hand, she rejected the Bush policy of pre-emptive war. On the other hand, she also rejected the view that the international community “should only resort to force if and when the United Nations Security Council approves it.” Drawing on the lessons of Bosnia, she said sometimes the world had to act, even if the big powers couldn’t agree.

    She sought a third way: more U.N. resolutions, more inspections, more diplomacy, with the threat of force reserved as a last resort. She was triangulating, but the Senate resolution offered her a binary choice. She voted yes in order to give Powell bipartisan leverage at the U.N.

    This is how she’s always explained that vote, and I confess that until now, I’ve regarded her explanation as a transparent political dodge. Didn’t everyone know this was a war resolution? But now, having investigated her public comments, I think diplomatic leverage really was on her mind. I also know, from a third person, that she was spending a lot of time with Powell and wanted to help.

    On Nov. 8, 2002, the Security Council passed a unanimous resolution threatening Saddam with “serious consequences” if he didn’t disarm.

    The next crucial period came in March 2003, as the U.S. battled France over the second Security Council resolution. Clinton’s argument at this point was that inspections were working and should be given more time. “It is preferable that we do this in a peaceful manner through coercive inspection,” she said on March 3, but went on, “At some point we have to be willing to uphold the United Nations resolutions.” Then she added, “This is a very delicate balancing act.”

    On March 17, Bush gave Saddam 48 hours to disarm or face attack. Clinton tried to be critical of the Bush policy while being deferential to the office of the presidency. She clearly had doubts about Bush’s timing, but she kept emphasizing that from her time in the White House, she knew how unhelpful it was for senators to be popping off in public on foreign policy.

    At one press event in New York, she nodded when Charles Rangel said Bush had failed at the U.N. But when reporters asked Clinton to repeat what Rangel had just said, she bit her tongue. On March 17, as U.S. troops mobilized, she issued her strongest statement in support of the effort.

    Clinton’s biggest breach with the liberal wing actually opened up later, in the fall of 2003. Most liberals went into full opposition, wanting to see Bush disgraced. Clinton — while an early critic of the troop levels, the postwar plans and all the rest — tried to stay constructive. She wanted to see America and Iraq succeed, even if Bush was not disgraced.

    When you look back at Clinton’s thinking, you don’t see a classic war supporter. You see a person who was trying to seek balance between opposing arguments. You also see a person who deferred to the office of the presidency. You see a person who, as president, would be fox to Bush’s hedgehog: who would see problems in their complexities rather than in their essentials; who would elevate procedural concerns over philosophical ones; who would postpone decision points for as long as possible; and who would make distinctions few heed.

    Today, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party believes that the world, and Hillary Clinton in particular, owes it an apology. If she apologizes, she’ll forfeit her integrity. She will be apologizing for being herself.

    World U.S. N.Y. / Region Business Technology Science Health Sports Opinion Arts Style Travel Jobs Real Estate Automobiles Back to Top
    Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
    Privacy Policy Search Corrections RSS First Look Help Contact Us Work for Us Site Map

  12. Rachel North says:

    Hindsight. What about vision? If she wants my vote, quit talking about what went wrong. I want solutions–lots of them. And the first guy or girl that has several of them wins. Come on we’re strategists … the war has several fronts and she needs to have lots of ideas on battling each.

    Right now all we talk about is military security. If we were building roads, schools and hospitals faster than the enemy could blow them up then that would be something. Security extends to security from poverty, unemployment, boredom and illness.

    My advice, change the subject. Talk about what else we should be doing in Iraq.

Comments are closed.